Public sector to shop in online marketplace

Zanzibar service to handle £125bn worth of purchases...

Zanzibar service to handle £125bn worth of purchases...

The government today unveiled an online marketplace for public sector organisations, in a bid to cut the time and cost of hunting for everything from medical supplies to IT hardware.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is one of the first organisations to subscribe to the Zanzibar Service, which will run through England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Central and government departments, including schools, health trusts and hospitals, housing associations, emergency services and public sector charities will use the system to make their £125bn worth of annual purchases from private sector suppliers.

The contract for the deal was signed in August last year but the project has taken several months to implement.

A spokesman for, which led negotiations for the government, said there were delays in signing the contract.

He said: "It was a complex procurement. There were lots of issues as lots of people were bidding for it. I know they were hoping to launch last year."

But PA Consulting, which is providing the service, denied there were delays.

Veera Johnson, a member of PA's management group, told "There wasn't a delay as such. We took a while signing the contract because we wanted to make sure the specifications were right. I wanted it to be a useable system."

The move to an online market is part of the government's public sector economy drive - following on from Sir Peter Gershon's review of public service spending - that looks to improve efficiency and share services.